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Accused killer of city student says witnesses lied

The Buffalo man on trial in the fatal shooting of a student outside Lafayette High School took the stand Tuesday and accused prosecution witnesses of lying.

Norman Koonce, 21, denied killing 15-year-old Jawaan Daniels in June 2010.

A gunman on a bicycle shot Daniels while he waited for a bus at Grant Street and West Delavan Avenue shortly after being suspended from the high school, authorities say.

Did Koonce know the owner of a convertible that prosecutors say was used as a getaway car?

"Don't know her," Koonce told defense lawyer Kevin W. Spitler.

Does he own a green bike?

"No," Koonce replied.

Did he pull a gun out of his waistband and shoot Jawaan Daniels?

"No," he said.

What about the witness who identified him in a police lineup?

"I'd say he's lying," Koonce told prosecutor James F. Bargnesi.

About the only testimony in which Koonce agreed with other witnesses was what happened to him outside Lafayette High School at the start of the school year in 2009.

He suffered a beating at the hands of students there.

That was a fight that Koonce wasn't likely to win, Bargnesi suggested during his questioning.

"I ain't Hercules," Koonce replied.

Bargnesi asked Koonce if losing that fight was embarrassing.

"I've been through worse," Koonce replied.

Did the disrespect lead to revenge?

"Not in this case," Koonce said.

Bargnesi and co-prosecutor Lauren A. Williamson contend Koonce shot Jawaan in retaliation for the beating.

Koonce faces second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon charges before Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka.

Koonce has four previous convictions, but Pietruszka has ruled that jurors can only hear about two of them: his attempted-assault conviction in a 2010 case and his evading a public transit fare in 2008 in New York City.

Koonce also said he knew one of the witnesses against him because the two drug dealers sometimes crossed paths when meeting their drug supplier.

When Bargnesi asked Koonce what he was purchasing, Koonce replied, "Drugs."

In addition to the two previous convictions, Pietruszka also denied Bargnesi's attempts to play three of Koonce's recorded jailhouse telephone calls to the jury.

The judge allowed one recorded conversation to be played, in which Koonce can be heard saying of one witness, "He knows he ratted."

Spitler argued the other tapes were too prejudicial and unfair to his client, and the judge agreed.

In one of the recorded calls the judge did not allow into evidence, Koonce talks about whether to go to trial and risk a 25-year-to-life sentence or try to get a shorter sentence in a plea bargain.

"Guilty people talk about what kind of deal they can get, and innocent people talk about what kind of deal they can get," Spitler told the judge. "He doesn't say, 'I did it.' "

email: plakamp@buffnews.com

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